Due to the problems caused by non-native plants and fish, everyone needs to be on the outlook for those non-natives and help control their potential problems. Both Lakes Oconee and Sinclair have non-native fish and Lake Sinclair now has non-native grasses that are causing concerns for lake residents. Georgia Power held an open house on Nov. 1 to provide the latest information to landowners about both native and non-native grasses in Lake Sinclair.
Native grasses like water willow that grow throughout Lake Sinclair and to a lesser degree in Lake Oconee are good native grasses and it would be helpful that all landowners understand the difference between good native grasses and bad non-native grasses. Unfortunately, those differences have become clouded due to the recent problems being caused by non-native grasses.
If you were unable to attend the Georgia Power open house, I will summarize some of the information presented. Good native grasses currently found in Lake Sinclair are water willow, pondweed and southern naiad. Non-native grasses now found in Lake Sinclair are hydrilla, Egeria and possibly brittle naiad.
The permit program for landowners concerned with non-native grass and its removal was explained by Georgia Power. The permit program provided by Georgia Power allows landowners who have waterfront property to contract with a licensed company to spray the grasses around docks and waterfront areas that impact swimming and boating.
Unfortunately, spraying often kills not only non-native but often native grasses as well. Landowners need to understand the difference between good and bad grasses and understand the benefit of the native grasses in the lake.
Native aquatic vegetation is very beneficial to area lakes. It provides food, shelter, breeding habitat for fish and wildlife and oxygenation of the water. Some species of aquatic vegetation like native water willow also help buffer wave action and help fight erosion on shorelines. The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division has been planting native grasses in uninhabited areas of Lake Sinclair and Lake Sinclair for several years.
I have heard statements lately that all grass is bad and grass attracts poisonous snakes and even alligators. Lake Sinclair has an abundance of water snakes which are harmless and are protected. You can be fined for killing a water snake. Lake Sinclair is not the type of lake that attracts water moccasins and I have never seen a proven case of one being found in the lake.
Also, Lake Sinclair does not have alligators. I am aware that an alligator was found in Lake Sinclair a couple years ago. However, that alligator did not get into Lake Sinclair by himself. Someone transported that alligator into Lake Sinclair. It would be highly improbable to find an alligator in Lake Sinclair that managed to get into the lake without assistance.
Lake Sinclair is currently having a serious problem in some areas from both non-native hydrilla and possibly Egeria. It is difficult to tell the difference between the two kinds of grass with an untrained eye. Hydrilla has been identified in at least two areas of the lake and even though it has been sprayed it is causing problems for landowners and boaters in those areas. Hydrilla has the possibility to spread to other areas in the lake.
Native southern naiad is also growing in numerous areas and causing concern for landowners. Southern naiad is a native grass and is often misidentified as brittle naiad. I have searched areas of the lake especially from Little River Park to the dam and I have found lots of southern naiad in numerous areas of that area of the lake.
I am also sure southern naiad is growing in other areas of the lake. I have been able to find only one area of southern naiad growing in the Little River arm of the lake. Cold weather will kill back southern naiad but with the right conditions that include clear water and hot temperatures, it will again return next year. But as I said earlier southern naiad is a native grass and can provide excellent fishing for anglers and benefit overall the lakes fishery and other inhabitants of the lake.
Lake Sinclair has become extremely clear over the last couple of years and that has caused an explosion of both native and non-native grasses this year. I believe that southern naiad has been in the lake in small amounts for years and just waiting for the right conditions to spread. Those conditions arrived over the last couple of years. I believe non-native grasses like hydrilla have appeared more recently.
I know Lake Oconee landowners along with Georgia Power are looking with alarm at the grass problems at Lake Sinclair. So far Lake Oconee has not been infested with appreciable amounts of non-native grasses. However, it is very easy for grasses of all types to be moved from lake to lake by boaters. It would be extremely helpful for boaters who move from lake to lake to clean any grasses from their boat trailers and boat engine props.
Lake landowners can help the current grass problem by becoming more informed about both native and non-native grasses and by reporting any observed non-native grasses to Georgia Power. Better understanding the grass situation was certainly helped by the information and the one-on-one discussions provided by Georgia in their recent open house. Good fishing and see you next week.